Our primary goal in HWDSB is to improve student achievement and well-being.
This improvement takes place through effective instruction and appropriate intervention informed by assessment AND a positive school climate that is safe, equitable, inclusive, and that promotes positive mental health for students and staff.
Historically, Equity, Safe Schools and Mental Health have sometimes been considered in a “stand alone” fashion. This approach does not assist the important work we need to do in terms of creating a positive climate in every school and department. Further, discussions about equity, safe schools and mental health have sometimes excluded our core priority of improving student achievement. Again, this exclusion does not assist our achieving the commitments in our strategic directions. Going forward, positive school climate will be the umbrella under which we will coherently plan and implement our work in safe schools, mental health and equity, and positive school climate will be closely linked to student achievement as we focus on our priority of improving student achievement and well-being in HWDSB.
In order to improve student achievement and well-being, staff at HWDSB engages in collaborative inquiry. Using an inquiry framework characterized by planning, acting, observing/assessing and reflecting, each school determines a focus for student learning informed by data. They will also determine a focus for how to enhance the positive school climate at their school. Moving forward, the school self-assessment process will assist the school to determine a focus for student achievement and well-being (positive school climate.)
Once a focus is determined for improving student achievement and well-being, the staff asks a critical question/clarifies their problem of practice and engages in the process of creating a hypothesis, determining success criteria (what will it look like if we are successful in terms of improvement), and determining the evidence that will be gathered to see if improvement is happening. The staff will implement, measure progress, monitor student improvement and through reflection, staff will determine next steps.
The staff also determines a focus to their professional learning so that the capacity that they build allows the staff to improve student achievement and well-being in the area of focus determined through the self-assessment process.
Everyone in HWDSB learns in collaborative teams. Together we learn how we will best serve our students and we grapple with complex issues regarding the obstacles to improving student achievement and well-being.
Though we are experiencing challenges these days in the world of education in Ontario, it is my belief that all educators want students to learn in wonderful and effective school environments, and they will do whatever they can to make this a reality. It is our responsibility at the system level to be sure that our direction is clear, informed by our students, staff and community, that appropriate supports are provided and that we create conditions that assist our staff to do the best work for our students. These conditions include providing time for our staff to learn together, to support staff to create a culture of high expectations in every school and to invite our parents to hold the same high expectations for their children at home. It also means that the system is contributing to the sense of purpose that educators possess and the system is creating the coherence and focus needed by all educators to thrive so that there are no distractions from this important work with our students.
Our students deserve to be safe in our schools, to be included, accepted and celebrated for who they are and to be supported so that they are emotionally and physically healthy. If this is our students’ experience, they will be better able to achieve.
We will be working tohether with our staffs and our parents and communities in Hamilton-Wentworth to be sure that positive school climates exist everywhere!